Early Life Of Charles "Sparky" Schulz
Born Charles Monroe Shulz on November 26, 1922, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Carl and Dena Schulz. An uncle gave him the nickname "Sparky early on, and the name stuck. Charlie had a dog he named 'Spike,' Later, his Snoopy character would be prominent in comic strips.
Charlie didn't do well in school, flunking the 8th grade and flunking several subjects in high school. He was small in stature, timid, and very shy. He submitted one of his drawings to the high school yearbook, which was rejected. Undeterred, he submitted other drawings to magazines and also to Disney. These, too, were also rejected. Thankfully, that didn't stop Charlie, making him more determined.
All he ever wanted was to draw. By now, WW II drafted Charlie into the U.S. Army, where he proudly served and received several medals. When his mother died in 1943, Charlie took it pretty hard. He decided to tell his life story through his characters. He was eventually picked up by United Feature Syndicate, who insisted his comic strip be changed from Lil'Folks to PEANUTS. He wasn't so keen on the name change but was excited his comic strip would be published.
In 1951, Charlie married Joyce Halverson and adopted her daughter Meredith. The family moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where their son Monte was born. Soon they returned to Minneapolis, MN, where they had three more children, Craig, Amy, and Jill. In 1958 the family moved to Sebastopol, California, wherewith his fame and income growth, he built his studio. During this time, Charlie missed his ice hockey days from Minneapolis. Charlie decided to build his own ice arena, and the Redwood Empire Ice Arena in Santa Rosa, California, opened in 1969. Charlie loved ice hockey and arranged for a senior league for those over 40. There were even tournaments that included former NHL players and others from around the world. At one time, the oldest player was 91 years old!
By 1970 his marriage was in trouble with an affair discovered by Joyce. They divorced in 1972. In 1973, Charles married Jean Forysth Clyde and they would be married 27 years until he died in 2000.
Charles "Sparky" Schulz And His Career
PEANUTS comic strip became one of the world's most loved of all time. Throughout his lifetime, Charlie drew some 17,000 strips. He often told everyone his life story was in his comic strips. Charlie Brown's parents were a barber and a housewife, just like his in real life. Littler Lucy was based on an art instructor account he had proposed to in 1950, but she married someone else. Linus and Shermy were based on his friends, Linus Maurer and Sherman Plepier. Peppermint Patty was based on a cousin, Patricia Swanson.
Charlie's fame kept growing, and on 12/9/1965, executives approached Charlie to do an animated Christmas special for TV. Charlie was excited and worked quickly to put it together. The executives were worried about how it would be perceived, but when Charlie Brown's Christmas aired on 12/9/1965, the ratings and reviews soared. Letters poured into the producers praising the show and wanted more.
Charlie's Lifetime Earnings
In 2021 the estate earned 325 million, and over his 50-year career, he made one billion from his comic strips, product endorsements, and merchandise. PEANUTS is owned by three separate entities; Wildbrain, Sony Music, and the Schulz family. Even today, millions are still earned.
In August 2002, the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center opened in Santa Rosa, California.
Charlie's comic strip reflected events in his life but often carried subtle life messages. For example, Charlie Brown and his 'security blanket' elude mental health. Charlie introduced 'Franklin' in 1968, the first African American character.
Charlie gave us so much and is a national treasure and a delight for all of us, a genuinely humble genius. Unfortunately, Charlie died on February 12, 2000, and no new Peanuts are forthcoming as his children did not want anyone else drawing Peanuts.
- 1955 Reuben Award, and gain in 18964
- 1962 National Cartoonist Society
- 1980 Elzie Segar Award
- 1989 Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award
- 1993 Inducted into U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame
- 1996 Received a Star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame
- 2000 Sonoma Airport renamed Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma Airport
- 2000 Congressional Gold Medal
- 2007 Inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame